MORAGA, Calif. — The Cougars' debut in West Coast Conference play got off to an inauspicious start, with BYU falling 98-82 to St. Mary's. Granted, taking on a very good Gael squad on the road isn't an easy task, but for BYU it was looking for a more competitive effort and even a win.
Their fans, who filled nearly half of McKeon Pavilion, were certainly expecting a bit more from the visiting Cougars. They did their best to make Moraga feel like home for BYU, but some decided disadvantages in some key areas along with a loss of composure ultimately did BYU in.
"They came out and they flat-out out-played us," said BYU forward Brandon Davies. "From the get-go they were on us and in the first half we were just trying to find ourselves and they came ready to play."
St. Mary's dominated the perimeter play, hitting on 12-of-25 3-point attempts with their starting three guards combining for 65 points. Cougar freshman starting point guard Matt Carlino struggled mightily, missing on seven of his first eight shots while trying to force too much of the action in the early going, accounting for turnovers and uneven play on the offensive end.
"Their guys shared the ball really well and they shot it with confidence," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "When you get one guy that is shooting 3s, you can lock into that guy, but when there is three or four guys — it becomes a problem. Their big guys — when they set that screen, they roll straight to the basket and their point guard is very good at finding those shooters open if you provide too much help down-low."
The Gaels also enjoyed a decided advantage at the foul line, particularly in the first, where they converted on 14-of-16 attempts compared to BYU's just two of three. They finished the game going 24-of-30 from the line. BYU went 9-for-16 from the line.
The Cougars came out strong and competitive, however, finding themselves down only 38-36 with three-and-a-half minutes left in the first half. They were led at the point by Noah Hartsock and Davies, both of whom finished the half scoring in double-figures.
The Gaels used 15-7 run late to close out the half and were up 53-43 at the break. They were led by Stephen Holt's 16 first-half points, which included 4-of-5 from 3-point land.
Davies started the scoring in the second half with a couple of made free throws before St. Mary's went on 13-0 run that all but buried BYU for good. Forward Rob Jones fueled the run with consecutive 3-point baskets to put his team up 66-45 fives minutes in.
The Cougars were able to mount a challenge late, pulling to within 80-70 with just under six minutes in the game, but that's as close as they'd get.
"I thought St. Mary's played great," said Rose. "They shared the ball. They spaced the floor and hit shots and they rebounded well. They put a lot of pressure on us early to score on every possession and we had opportunities to cut into their lead, but we came up short."
The Gaels were led by forward Rob Jones who finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds. Point guard Matthew Dellavedova contributed 18 points and 12 assists.
BYU was led by Davies, who led all scorers with 28 points on the night.
Carlino and Hartsock each contributed 13 points a piece.
The Cougars will look for better results in WCC play Saturday, taking on San Diego at the Marriott Center.
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